Ladies and gentlemen, your Group of Death.
People like to hand this title to the toughest group to come out of the draw in major soccer tournaments - and with perennial favorites Barcelona, mainstays Borussia Dortmund, Italian giants Inter, and Czech champions Slavia Prague, you need not look farther than Group F in 2019.
|TEAM||TO WIN GROUP||TO QUALIFY||NOT TO QUALIFY|
Despite the pedigree of the clubs in Group F, Barcelona are undoubtedly the cream of the crop.
After a pair of epic collapses ended their hopes in the last two seasons, Barcelona are primed to make another run at Champions League glory. Manager Ernesto Valverde remains the club's lone weak spot, but his tactical flaws aren't typically exposed until later in the competition. He's never lost a Champions League group stage match while in charge of Barcelona (eight wins, four draws).
While the manager has his shortcomings, attempting to find holes in Barcelona's team on the pitch is futile. Generational talent Frenkie de Jong has transitioned seamlessly into arguably the best midfield in Europe alongside Sergio Busquets and Sergi Roberto, with Arthur, Carles Alena, and Ivan Rakitic all coming off the bench.
Up top, there might not be a more feared attack. Lionel Messi is the catalyst, joined by polarizing striker Luis Suarez and World Cup winner Antoine Griezmann. And then there's Ousmane Dembele, who may still be one of the more underrated players in Europe because he can't get consistent playing time.
Barcelona won their group in both seasons under Valverde (finishing ahead of Juventus in 2017-18 and over both Tottenham and Inter last season). They're no stranger to a tough draw, but there's no evidence to suggest they might slip up. Don't get cute and bet against one of the best squads in the world winning the group. In fact, with this sort of juice on Barca, lay off the market altogether.
With Barcelona the pick as group winners, it's down to the other three clubs to scrap for the second spot in the knockout stage. Slavia Prague are coming off an impressive Europa League campaign, having beaten Sevilla and pushed Chelsea to the brink, but with all due respect, they aren't in the same class as the rest of this group.
That leaves us with Dortmund and Inter. The Serie A club underwent a minor overhaul this summer, selling its two leading scorers from last season, Mauro Icardi and Ivan Perisic. Character issues aside, Icardi netted four of Inter's six goals in the group stage last year, often bailing them out of poor performances to rescue points - and they still failed to progress. Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez were brought in as replacements, but their best days are behind them. Though Valentino Lazaro and Nicolo Barella will provide a creative spark, Inter just don't have a consistent source of goals.
With the departures of Abdou Diallo and Christian Pulisic, Dortmund lost some star power of their own this summer, but they return the bulk of last season's production and revamped their attack with the signings of Thorgan Hazard and Julian Brandt. The duo combined for 17 goals and 25 assists in the Bundesliga last season. Meanwhile, Nico Schulz is a great add for a defense that also brought back Mats Hummels.
Furthering Dortmund's cause is the fact that they play at home the weekend before all six of their group matches. That's almost unheard of. The limited travel should help with their recovery time and provide a big leg up on Inter for second place. The Nerazzurri are away from home before four of their six group matches, and they face Roma four days before their Group F finale against Barcelona.
Pick: Borussia Dortmund to qualify (8-11); Barcelona 1st, Dortmund 2nd (7-5)
Alex is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.